Mazda3 2.0 Astina

Mazda 3 takes it a step above

Mazda has quietly evolved as a brand, its cars as something quite special in the realm of what we have become acceptable as normal. Normal of course being a cycle in a washing machine. It's more recent models have impressed us — CX-3 and CX5 are among the better utes out there at the moment and now the Three moves that ’normal’ car expectation forward too.

This new seventh generation 3 sets a new milestone as it leads the brand into a bold, contemporary new era, starting at first sight with the latest in Mazda’s Kodo design language - we trust you concur that it's quite stunning, proportioned and balanced. They say that the new Mazda 3 embodies the essence of Japanese aesthetics as light and reflections glide over the body surface in a richer and more powerful expression. We say it’s simply stunning to look at.

This dynamic hatchback is splendidly proportioned and in this black-wheeled get-up, really looks the part — its long, low bonnet blends into a slick glasshouse in an elegant, wide and low stance. Nothing spin cycle about this car. Step inside and you're greeted by a just as attractive minimalist, connected and driver centric cabin packing all the latest infotainment including Apple and Android mirroring and the rest in a style you’d expect more from a Maserati than a Mazda. 

The new Three also lacks for very little — packing everything you’d expect from that Maserati too, to deliver a significant premium step forward for Mazda .

Powered by the familiar 121kW 213Nm 2-litre, this Astina automatic impressed on the road too — its Skyactiv engine makes a little more noise than its turbo rivals do, but we felt that added an enjoyable edget, while performance is also impressive. Not quite GTI quick, but mid-8 second 0-100 and a decent quarter-mile sprint come with impressive tractability and its frugal enough, too.

Handling is impressive and it rides well — there seems little trade off between the two to thump home the big message of Mazda3 quality, quality, quality home. Yes, the new Mazda3 indeed carries a corresponding price premium versus its obvious rivals, but truth be told, it does step away from the normal to present a car more premium than you’d expect in this neck of the woods, our time with it proving our great first impression of it to be quite true.

Mazda3 does not really compete with Corolla or Golf — it rather steps in a rung above, to make them feel a tad normal. — Michele Lupini

Images — Dyklan McKay

ROAD TESTED: Mazda 3 2.0 Astina Hatch
Engine: 121kW 213Nm 2-litre petrol I4                
Drive: 6-speed auto FWD
0-60km/h:                   3.89 sec
0-100km/h:                 8.55 sec                      
0-160km/h:                 21.41 sec       
400m:                         16.1 sec @ 142km/h            
80-120km/h:               5.89 sec
120-160km/h:             9.51sec          
VMax:                         205km/h                               
Fuel:                           6.3 l/100km                         
CO2:                          146 g/km
Warranty/Service:    3y unl/3y unl 
LIST PRICE:                R474K           
RATED:                      8